The Quick 10: 10 Things Mark Twain Didn't Say (and 10 he did)


The man who has provided us with some of the best quips of all time is also one of the most misquoted men of all time. I guess that’s the problem with being as clever as Mark Twain – when someone hears a great witticism and has no one to attribute it to, they just assume it was Mr. Clemens. On what would have been his 175th birthday, here are 10 quotes Mark Twain likely never uttered, despite popular belief.

1. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

It has also been attributed to Agatha Christie. Neither source can be verified.

He DID say: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”

2. “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

He DID say: “[He] was endowed with a stupidity which by the least little stretch would go around the globe four times and tie.”

3. “Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.”

He DID say: “When a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me.”

4. “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

He DID say: “I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don't get it.”

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5. “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” This was actually written by Blaise Pascal.

He DID say: “We write frankly and fearlessly but then we "modify" before we print.”

6. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

He DID say: “Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death.”

7. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Twain himself denied inventing this quote, and claimed Benjamin Disraeli was the one who created it. It is thanks to Twain, however, that the saying became popular in the U.S.

He DID say: “Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is.”

8. “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”

He DID say: “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.”

9. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.”

He DID say: “One cannot have everything the way he would like it. A man has no business to be depressed by a disappointment, anyway; he ought to make up his mind to get even.”

10. “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over.”

He DID say: “Water is an individual, an animal, and is alive, remove the hydrogen and it is an animal and is alive; the remaining oxygen is also an individual, an animal, and is alive. Recapitulation: the two individuals combined, constitute a third individual--and yet each continues to be an was mute Nature explaining the sublime mystery of the Trinity so luminously that even the commonest understanding could comprehend it, whereas many a trained master of words had labored to do it with speech and failed.”

Thanks to TwainQuotes for the great info. Do you have any favorite Twain quotes (or misquotes) to add?